Reshaping environmental education towards ecosystem restoration in the new normal

By Ronin Research Scholar Christopher Punzalan

On November 11-12, 2021, I was able to participate in the 13th Philippine Network of Educators on Environment (PNEE) Virtual International Conference and Scientific Meeting held via Zoom through the conference scholarship grant from the Ronin Institute. The theme of the conference was “Reshaping Environmental Education towards Ecosystem Restoration in the New Normal” which was organized by PNEE, University of the Philippines Los Banos and UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM). Due to the current pandemic, the conference was conducted virtually. Through a travel scholarship awarded by the Ronin Institute, I was able to use an online platform at home to actively participate in the conference. I presented my three research papers under the topical coverages of environmental education, capacity building, gender and development, and methodological studies via an online platform at home. Meaningfully, the international conference opened the opportunities for environmental educators, researchers, extensionists, scientists, policy makers, and international scholars to listen to experts in the fields of environmental science and education who talked about the current problematic concerns related to COVID-19 and sustainable environmental management. The conference gathered individuals and groups from the Philippines and abroad to discuss innovations in ecosystem restoration, environmental leadership, and youth engagement; and to discover how social media can be a tool towards environmental education in the new normal.

The conference program included keynote speeches delivered by esteemed experts in the fields of environmental policy, ecosystem restoration, and water management. These people worked individually to promote the understanding of the role of environmental education in protection and conservation of the environment. Additionally, the conference highlighted various paper presentations, which were grouped according to thematic areas such as environmental education, curriculum development, research/training, capacity building, water supply and demand, human security and well-being, sustainable energy production and urban systems, social health and safety, natural resource productivity, biodiversity conservation, and indigenous knowledge systems, and many more. Also, the event allowed the PNEE members to reunite during the scientific meeting, which emphasized the message from the president, introduction of the board members, recognition of institutional members, presentation of planned activities for 2022, and reading of the white paper about the theme, Reshaping Environmental Education Towards Ecosystem Restoration in the New Normal. Open fora were held from each parallel session in which the research presenters were able to answer the questions of the attendees regarding the implications of the studies’ results in the environment, society, and economy. The program ended with the awarding of best paper and best presentations and closing message from the organizers.

Likewise, the research studies that I presented during the conference were the products of my field studies and explorations, which were part of this scholarship and were conducted in the previous months. I went to various places in the Philippines to gather the research data and collaborate with other environmental education practitioners. These included the tree planting participation of the students, and a museum trip to promote the 21st century environmental education and environmental awareness of the students in rural and urban school contexts. The conference was a great opportunity for me to discuss knowledge and practices on how to effectively reshape environmental education programs and projects towards ecosystem restoration. Being a researcher in the field of environmental education, I recognized that this event was necessary for me to realize various approaches and practices to promote environmental education and awareness in the new normal. Also, this conference expanded my research horizon, being  faculty at a higher education institution, as it identified key priority resource areas for enhanced capacity of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines and it also provided a venue to foster environmental leadership and youth engagement to sustain ecosystem restoration initiatives. The conference scholarship I obtained from the Ronin Institute was significant not only for me to afford to join the event but also to become a professional member of PNEE. I utilized the funding for collaboration with researchers and academics who were part of the event to establish our research results and enhance our concluded research projects.

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Christopher H. Punzalan is a research scholar at Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, New Jersey, United States and a sciences and general education professional lecturer at National University-Philippines. He is currently finishing his thesis for a graduate degree, Master of Arts in Science Education with specialization in Integrated Science, at the Philippine Normal University, the Philippines’ National Center for Teacher Education. Also, he is an associate member of the National Research Council of the Philippines. He received his undergraduate degree in Bachelor of Technical Teacher Education and Diploma in Power Plant Engineering Technology from Technological University of the Philippines at Cavite. Punzalan is a Licensed Professional Teacher and a holder of Career Service Sub Professional Eligibility in the Philippines. He also held positions as laboratory technician, senior high school coordinator, STEM coordinator, independent researcher, extensionist, journal article reviewer, and book review editor.

This post is a perspective of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Ronin Institute.

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